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The craftsman
Vol. V, No. 4 (January 1904)

Warner, John Dewitt
The importance of municipal improvements,   pp. 362-367 PDF (2.1 MB)


Page 363


MUNICIPAL IMPROVEMENTS
attrition of human aggregates-the later
incidents of original development as a fort-
ress, a court, a temple, a market, a workshop,
with a tendency toward combination of sev-
eral or all of these; but of gravitation rather
than conscious mutual intent.
   Of the old cities now extant two charac-
teristics are, therefore, common-one the
virtual combination of all the principal fea-
tures of cities; and the other the frequently
grotesque unfitness of each, as an original
proposition, for what to-day are the princi-
pal ends it serves-commerce, for example,
being hopelessly handicapped at a site
chosen for a fortress that is now in ruin, or
for a cathedral now long the memorial of
burned out zeal, or for a court of an extinct
local dynasty.
   The Twentieth Century City must be
planned and studied as the normal focus of
a constantly growing proportion of the
whole life of a people-in which there is no
excuse for sacrificing all other ends to any
one; but rather an obvious need, and grow-
ing disposition to see how far all uses may
be at once accommodated. For the condi-
tions of modern civilization leave ever more
hopelessly in the rear the city-no matter
how ideally fitted for one use-that is so
situated as not to be generally available for
others. To thrive, therefore, a city must
be made attractive for all purposes-not all
purposes that cities have some time served;
but those that cities now serve.
  In our greatest cities-London, New
York, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Constantinople,
Pekin, Chicago, St. Petersburg, Glasgow,
St. Louis, Buenos Ayres, we have survivals
or examples of every class-but all now
thoroughly modern in this-that, however
they were originally developed, no really
great city is now dependent upon remaining
a center of war, government or religion; or
would not survive the loss of all such advan-
tages; or would not be ruined by failure of
her commerce, and crippled by that of her
manufactures; or where, with late raising of
standards of life and comfort, the extent to
which it is the chosen residence of those who
are free to go elsewhere is not a great and
increasing factor in its prosperity and pros-
pects.
   In short, as contrasted with the city of
the past, the city of to-day is best charac-
terized by the dwindling of military, politi-
cal and ecclesiastical factors, and the growth
of business and domestic ones. Less and
less can it be "left to grow." More and
more must it be planned and built. To the
essential use of each old city other uses were
casually added. In the new city, mutual
codperation towards service of all interests
must be its foundation principle.
   Perhaps the most important point to be
kept in mind is that late increase in facilities
for communication and transport has made
of each city a potential center for a wider
district than it used to reach, and at the
same time has left it rivaled by others, and
itself in danger of losing influence, in the
very field where it has hitherto been supreme.
This means that, for an indefinite time to
come-until the world is thoroughly read-
justed as a single limited country-a city
cannot stand still. It must grow or decay.
  It can never be too often recalled that Art
is not a thing to be done, but the right way
to do whatever is to be done. Municipal
Art is, therefore, simply the best way to
make a city what it ought to be-best fitted
for all ends of a city-a city of to-day-a
city of the future.
                                      363


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